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Japan House London to open in June
Europe’s first Japan House is to open in London on 22nd June, to offer authentic and surprising encounters with Japan.
Along with Los Angeles and Sao Paulo, London is one of only three global locations chosen by the Japanese government to celebrate the country’s “multi-faceted culture in a constant state of adaption of evolution.” Ambassador of Japan to the UK Koji Tsuruoka said that, “as one of the world’s greatest and most vibrant cities, London was the natural choice.”
The new home for Japanese creativity and innovation will showcase art, design, gastronomy and technology from across the nation over three floors in a renovated Art Decco building on Kensington High Street. Facilities include a temporary exhibition gallery, event space, library, shop, restaurant and tourist information area.
A wide-ranging programme will showcase artisans, craftsmen, designers and performers who are making waves in Japan and around the world. Visitors will be able to appreciate their masterpieces not only through the wide-ranging programme but also through the fabric of the building.
Almost every aspect of the facility is derived from Japan, including hand-made floor tiles from Hyogo Prefecture’s remote Awaji island and the building’s iconic spiral staircase, which was assembled piece by piece after arriving in London. The modern, minimalistic space embodies Japanese aesthetics, according to Masamichi Katayama, principal of interior design firm Wonderwall, which led the project.
Maximising Japan fever
The opening comes as interest in Japan grows in the run up to the Rugby World Cup 2019 and Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Ambassador Tsuruoka noted: “As the Rugby World Cup 2019 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games draw the world’s attention, I hope that this ground-breaking venture will provide a new opportunity for Britons to encounter Japan, thus serving to further enhance the friendship between our two countries and peoples.”
With UK tourism to Japan also booming—British visitors to Japan surpassed 300,000 for the first time, in 2017—visitors to Japan House will also enjoy free travel advice and information from the Japan National Tourism Organization.
Making its debut in the UK, the opening exhibition will feature the works of Sousuke Fujimoto, one of Japan’s most influential contemporary architects.
The Shop blurs the concept of shop and gallery, introducing Japanese products as well as the artisans who made them and the social context in which they were developed. With a focus on monozukuri (the art of making things), the space will present washi, kitchenware, accessories, beauty items and much more.
The Library offers a new approach to appreciate and engage with books through bookshelf exhibitions curated by Yoshitaka Haba, president of book display specialist Bach.
And, while The Stand will serve the green tea and snacks for which Japan is renowned, it will add to its menu an innovative flannel-filtered coffee, which boasts a rich flavour with low acidity.
Meanwhile, chef Akira Shimizu, who has opened some of the UK’s most highly regarded Japanese restaurants, will bring his cooking trinity—food, tableware and presentation—to Japan House’s restaurant, Akira. Sushi and chargrilled skewered meat, fish and vegetables will be served in dishes created by artisans in Japan and accompanied by original cocktails featuring sake, yuzu and shiso.
Whether related to architecture, products or cuisine, each experience is rooted in a unique story of monotsukuri. Michael Houlihan, director general of Japan House London, said, “London has long been a crossroads for our world’s cultures, ideas and trade. From June, Japan will have a special place where its voice can be heard, and its stories can enrich this exceptional fabric of openness and understanding.”